Olympic hope Vinesh Phogat to skip wrestling camp amid COVID fears

The only Indian woman to have booked a quota place for Tokyo Olympics next year, Vinesh Phogat will continue to train at home.

By Ubaid Parker

Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat has decided not to participate in the national camp scheduled to begin early next month.

Citing health concerns owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25-year-old said that it would be unsafe for her to travel from Haryana to Lucknow, where the women's wrestling camp is to be held.

The national camps, set to begin on September 1, are for grapplers who have already qualified and those who can potentially qualify for the Olympics. The men’s camp will be in Sonepat.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), however, is yet to decide if Vinesh Phogat warrants an exemption from the camp, considering the Commonwealth Games gold-medallist may not have access to state-of-the-art training facilities back home.

"The camp is for players. We want preparation to kick off now for the Olympics," WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said. "When they express such apprehensions, it’s a bit surprising.”

Vinesh Phogat, who had a heartbreaking exit at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is the only woman wrestler from India to have sealed a quota place for Tokyo 2020 next year.

भारत की महिला पहलवान विनेश फोगट

The WFI will follow safety protocols according to the guidelines laid down by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), including a quarantine period and a mandatory COVID-19 test, before the camp begins.

But it's not enough for Vinesh Phogat, who reasoned that she “falls sick very easily” and prefers to stay home in Haryana.

“You can’t go out of the SAI centre in Lucknow, so you can’t get yourself a few things which you need,” she told PTI.

“In Lucknow, cases are rising but it’s safe in Haryana, so I am more comfortable here,” Phogat reasoned. “The situation is not good to travel to Lucknow.”

As of Sunday, the Indian state of Haryana registered 48,040 COVID cases while Uttar Pradesh, whose capital is Lucknow, recorded 158,216.

Recently, six players of the Indian hockey team were found COVID positive when they arrived for the national camp in Bengaluru. They have since recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Vinesh Phogat, who will compete in the women’s freestyle 53kg weight category, will continue to train in Haryana with her coach Om Parkash, who executes plans sent in by her personal coach Woller Akos.